Surrounded by Laughter and Love

Anaïs is a playful little 3 and a half year old girl. Her mother Véronic insists knows her like the back of her hand. “Ever since she was born, I devour her, I kiss her, I have her in my arms all the time. Even then, I didn’t see or feel anything.” The little girl had a bulging belly, but her parents never suspected a cancerous tumor. Their world came to an end in January 2020, during a routine medical examination. Anaïs was barely two years old.

When the doctor felt her small belly, he raised an eyebrow and ordered x-rays. The imaging showed an abnormally large liver. Véronic and her husband were worried, but thought it was a common health problem. A cyst perhaps? Mononucleosis? The following day, a specialist pointed out the presence of a mass. Their concern level suddenly went up a notch. An emergency ultrasound revealed that it was a neuroblastoma. The shock. “End of my world, end of my life.”

Stepping Into the Darkness

Ten days later, Anaïs went on the operating table and started her first cycle of chemotherapy. The family stayed at the hospital for three weeks. “Everything went very fast because Anaïs’ condition was already at an advanced stage. It was even life threatening.” The little girl had metastases in the bones of her arms, legs and hips, on her head and in her bone marrow. A whole arsenal was planned, it was necessary to attack from all sides: six cycles of chemotherapy, surgery, radiotherapy, bone marrow transplant. The protocol was spread out over a year. “It’s a high-risk neuroblastoma. Whenever I asked questions, my desperation increased. I stopped wanting to know. From the beginning, we step into the darkness. We’re not talking about very bright prognoses.”

Véronic’s first contact with Leucan is still a bit hazy. “I know that Julie, the counselor, came to meet us shortly after we arrived. She told us about the services offered, but I was depressed, I guess. I was in a miserable state.” At the Montreal Children’s Hospital, the mother watched the activities organized by Leucan from afar: café-brioches, bingos, meetings in the playroom. “It was like I was on a different planet, I would never have been able to have a coffee with other parents, let alone laugh.”

Anaïs’ body was refractory to chemotherapy and she suffered painful complications that had her parents really worried. Doctors ended up abandoning the usual protocol and opting for immunotherapy. “We were getting off the groomed ski slope and going hors-piste. Luckily, it worked well. It was our lifeline. We finally got our little girl back.” Her treatments ended last February. Anaïs is currently in remission, but her parents know that the risk of recurrence remains very high. “Right now, she’s on fire!”

Valued Gifts From Leucan

Anaïs was on her way to recovery in June 2020. Véronic has gradually started to surface up from the abyss. She would have loved to participate in Leucan’s activities, to meet other parents like those she met before the pandemic. “These parents are in my heart.” But the hallways of the hospital are now deserted. It will have to be for another time. She wants to sign Anaïs up for the next Vol d’été Summer Camp, so that Anaïs can hang out with children and parents who are going through a similar situation.

For the past year, Véronic has tried to participate in the virtual activities organized. “It has been difficult. Anaïs is too small and doesn’t stay put. We participated in the bingo a few times and attended the Christmas party. Anaïs enjoyed receiving the gifts from Leucan.”

The association has also offered the family some financial support. Because of the pandemic, Véronic and her husband, who work in the arts industry, both lost their jobs. “The first month, the amount we received from Leucan helped pay part of the rent. It was very welcome.”

Thanks to the support received from various sources, the parents were able to devote all their energy and time to looking after their child. “It bought us time. We wanted to be with Anaïs for the entire treatment. That’s what was important to me. I had no control over her health, her body and her tumors. All I could do was make her forget that we were in the hospital, that it was sad, that it was oppressing. All we wanted to do was throw some joy in the mix.”

This is what they did by having little daily dance parties in the hospital room. Every day, Anaïs was surrounded by laughter and love.

Leucan Donate